Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender History at Rutgers
A chronological examination of the steps the Rutgers community has taken to establish a welcoming, LBGT-friendly institution, from the 1969 founding of the Rutgers Homophile League to the 2009 universitywide training on gender identity.
1969 The Rutgers Homophile League, on College Avenue, was founded by Lionel Cuffie. It was the first openly homosexual organization in New Jersey and the second on a college campus nationwide. Over time, the league evolved into what is now the Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian Alliance of Rutgers University (BiGLARU).
1976 The School of Law–Newark organizes the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Caucus to represent LGBT interests and raise awareness on campus. The caucus also encourages the study of law affecting of the LGBT community.
1988 The late President Edward J. Bloustein establishes the President's Select Committee for Lesbian-Gay Concerns and directs the New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden provosts to identify a student affairs staff member to assume responsibility for lesbian and gay concerns. These so-called “liaisons” assist students in resolving problems, make referrals for services and special help, and sponsor programs to reduce homophobia and heterosexism. (Subsequently the term “lesbian-gay” is changed to “LGBT” to reflect the changes in the larger queer community.)
1992 The university creates the Office of Diverse Community Affairs and Lesbian and Gay Concerns. At the same time, Rutgers establishes the Program for Multicultural Awareness and Bias Prevention, which includes the Bias Prevention Committee. The committee is comprised of a range of professional staff whom students may contact regarding bias incidents and multicultural insensitivity.
1996 The University Senate votes to include "gender identity and expression" in Rutgers’ nondiscrimination policy. But as an alternative, the then-University Counsel advises Executive Vice President Joseph Seneca to interpret the policy as protecting transgender individuals within the categories of "sex" and "sexual orientation."
1998 The university hosts its first Rainbow Graduation Celebration to honor the achievements of LBGT undergraduate and graduate students, presenting the first Lionel Cuffie Award for Activism and Excellence. (Cuffie died in 1984 at the age of 34.) The award is given each year at the Rainbow Graduation to a Rutgers student who embraces the activism and human dignity that marked Cuffie's life.
2005 Gregory Blimling, vice president for student affairs, establishes the Gender Identity Taskforce to assist the three Rutgers campuses in creating more welcoming environments for LGBT students. The Office of Diverse Community Affairs and Lesbian and Gay Concerns changes its name to the Office for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities.
2006 After reviewing existing LGBT policies, practices, and resources, the Gender Identity Taskforce issues a report with recommendations for short- and long-term changes. These include: more employee training sessions on LGBT issues; campus climate surveys to gauge awareness and understanding; improving and marketing the SJE website as an informational resource; an updated online list of unisex/single-stall restrooms; gender-neutral restrooms included in all new construction; and more LGBT-friendly campus housing options, including a living-learning community for students of all gender identities.
2008 Following the example of the New Jersey Legislature, Rutgers updates its nondiscrimination policy interpreted since 1996 to include safeguards for transgender individuals, to explicitly include gender identity and expression as a category of protection against discrimination and harassment. At the same time, gender identity and expression was incorporated into the university’s Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment as well as the EEO/AA policy. Also in 2008: The Office for Social Justice Education hires Jenny Kurtz to coordinate and consolidate university efforts to enhance the quality of life for LGBT students.
2009 SJE expands training workshops on gender identity to departments universitywide and moves its office from College Avenue into larger quarters on the Livingston Campus that include a lounge and resource center. The office is renamed, the Center for Social Justice Education & LGBT Communities.
2010 Rutgers awards its first LGBT Scholarships to two undergraduate students. Demarest Hall becomes the first residence hall to have a multi-stall gender neutral restroom.
2011 Rutgers starts the year with three new housing initiatives in place, a LGBTQA roommate matching option for first year students, a gender neutral housing option for upper-class students, and Rainbow Perspectives, a special interest section for students interested in LGBTQA issues.–Carla Cantor